How brilliant that our para riders brought back such a huge haul of medals from Rio. Even more brilliant is their unblemished record of team gold.
So what’s the secret? Is it the riders, the management, the support, the selectors, the grooms, the horses or the team trainers? Or all of the above, plus sheer hard work, dedication, determination, discipline and drive? In truth, there are probably a few other things in the mix too.
I’m not a fan of the pyramid model for success. I prefer to think of a bicycle wheel with each spoke helping the wheels go around. It’s not one person at the top with layers of less important people under them; it’s everyone working together to complete the circle, each spoke perfectly connected.
Maybe some of our other equestrian teams need to take a look at the paras’ way of doing things. I do agree with Mark Todd (H&H, 15 September), for instance, that eventing should start using pure dressage judges, and the sooner the better. Of course, even the paras’ system is by no means perfect. Talland, my family’s equitation centre, has trained multi-medallist Anne Dunham for more than 20 years, but there was a time when she had to be saved from the scrapheap.
Anne’s just turned 68, and I’m already being asked if she will go to Tokyo, but the question of her age originally came up three Games ago. Fortunately, we were able to persuade those in charge to amend the relevant wording. Since then, having missed London, Anne won a clutch of medals last month in Rio. It’s not hurrahs I’m after as her trainer, but the chance to question the total waste of talent just because of systems not in place. Who else is being left isolated and ignored with no one to fight their corner?
Often I beg for our British Horse Society to do something about embracing the paras. And, hey, now they just might. But will it be before Anne and I move to another world? I’m amazed at how little the Paralympians are used to pass on their knowledge. The only establishment that currently uses Anne for teaching is us here at Talland.
Charlie and Pippa Hutton and Suzanne Hext regularly share lessons with Anne, she gives lectures to our students, and I have used her in demonstrations many a time. Retirement is not in her plans. Following Rio, even the World Class programmes could do with a wash-up meeting and a plan for using our 2016 Olympic and Paralympic medallists to
help bring on the next lot.
The funniest text I received from Anne during the Games read: “I had your hell ringing in my ears…” I can only hope that was a typo and she meant “help”. I’m too afraid to ask!
Our British Dressage (BD) national championships were superb. Everything was well managed, from the entrance gate to the seating. On the Thursday, I melted in the heat. Then it freshened up, causing a scramble for coats. The covered stand threatened to take off like a giant kite, but overall we were lucky with the weather. Meanwhile, some of BD’s founder members wondered if hospitality tickets were not so readily available this year.
The competitions themselves ran like clockwork. Any combination finishing near the top of their class was well and truly up to standard. British dressage has shown unbelievable improvement from top to bottom. I know this after sorting some photo albums from the past 50 years. I keep one a year and, wow, have things moved on.
Ref Horse & Hound; 6 October 2016